Over shadowed by the LRT-2 (Light Rail Transit) Anonas Station, the Saint Joseph Archdiocesan Shrine is secret gem of modern church architecture and art along one of the busiest and most polluted roads of Quezon City, Aurora Boulevard. Established in 1951, the church was meant to serve the new residents of the residents of nearby government People’s Housing Homesite Corporation’s housing Projects 2, 3 and 4 and the rest of the Cubao district, who were relocated from Manila. Manila was still devastated after the bombings at the end of World War II (1938-1945), and the many displaced citizens had to be relocated, which the city was being rebuilt.
When the residents appealed for a new church in the area, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Manila sent Fr. Jose S. Sunga, to administer as the parish priest of the area. The Saint Joseph’s chapel first opened inside a government public school, along Durian Street and Anonas streets. This school would eventually be established as the Elpidio Quirino Elementary School, in 1952, after President Elpidio Rivera Quirino (1890-1956), whose Homesite project gave rise to the community.
The chapel was named after Saint Joseph, as the patron of workers, since most of the new residents were from working class families. But with the lease running out of the chapel, Fr. Sunga found a new location along Calle Quezón (now Aurora Boulevard), which was named after President Manuel Luis Molina Quezón (1878-1944), whose People’s Homesite Corporation purchased the Diliman estate of the Tuason clan in 1938, to decongest Manila. First called Barrio Obrero (Workers’ Village), in 1939, the Philippine National Assemble passed the charter to name and develop the area as Quezon City.
Groundbreaking for the new church was held in 1952, and over the years the parish was constructed. Along with a major renovation in 1978, the present church is a mixed of modernist simplicity and baroque accents. The dedication to Saint Joseph as the Patron Workers, Patron of Holy Death and the Provider of the Holy Family are emphasized in the many stained glass windows that relate the story of Saint Joseph’s life.
At the narthex and choir loft are the images of Joseph’s Vision of the angels assuring of his marriage to Mary (Matthew 1:20-21) and the Death of Joseph.
At the left and right corners of the choir loft are two small retablo (altar niches), with the satin glass images of the Child Jesus’ Presentation at the Temple (Luke 2:22–40).
At the left aisle are four stained glass windows depicting the Marriage of Joseph and Mary, Joseph and Mary finding no room in the Bethlehem Inn (Luke 2:7), the Visitation of the Shepherds to the Child Jesus (Luke 2:8-20), and the Visitation of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-11).
At the right aisle are the four stained glass windows showing the Dream of Joseph (Matthew 1:20-21), the Flight to Egypt (Matthew 2:13–23), the Finding at the Temple of the Boy Jesus (Luke 2:41-52), Joseph teaching Jesus Carpentry.
During the early 1980s, Monsignor Arsenio Bautista realized that Catholic families of lower income brackets living nearby were sending their children protestant schools. The closest Catholic schools, the Ateneo de Manila University, the Maryknoll College,and St. Bridget School Quezon City, were a bit too expensive to many of the residents. So in 1985, the Saint Joseph Pastoral Council launched the St. Joseph Educational Center (SJEC), along Molave Street, right behind the church. This is now the St. Joseph Catholic School.
In the following year, during the Feast of St. Joseph, the Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Chapel was inaugurated. The 1986 chapel had also now expanded to house the devotional area for the lighting of the votive candles.
As the years passed, many of the families in the area have become more affluent, and in 1993 the members of the Pastoral Council commissioned the genre artist, Loreto Racuya, to create several murals for the parish. At the church doorway are two paintings depicting “The Procession” the commemorates the bringing of the Holy Eucharist towards the Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Chapel in 1986, and “The Sacred Heart of Jesus” and the services that the parish as given to the community. At the nathex and choir loft, Racuya paints “Saint Joseph” with a host of angels and people of the Philippines, signifying the saint as a Patron of the Catholic Community.
Loreto T. Racuya (born 1940) is a figurative painter of genre scenes, in the romantic-realist style. Born of humble roots in Anda, Pangasinan Province, Racuya already displayed a knack for art, despite his lack of materials for art making. In 1960, Racuya first started his informal art lessons with a local painter, Feliciano Rombaoa Tinonas (1922-2011). On the next year, Racuya started working for Jose Juco Advertising, rendering large scaled billboards of American and Filipino films. After half a decade working on film posters, Racuya was hired by the Ayala Foundation, as one of the artists to create the dioramas for the Ayala Museum. Along with other young artists, such as Tam Austria, Racuya would model miniature scenes of Philippine history, with the dioramas of the “Parian”, “Aglipay”, “Katipunan”, and “The Battle of Bataan” sets as his primary creations. In 1974, just as he had completed his work for the Ayala Museum, Racuya finally received his Bachelor of Arts degree Diploma in Painting from Pennsylvania International Correspondence School with excellent grades in watercolor. From then on, Racuya would be continuing his string of successes, such as his first solo exhibit at the Hidalgo Gallery in 1974, the 1st Prize for the Manuel L. Quezon Centennial Nationwide Painting Competition in 1978, the 1stPrize in Balagtas at Celia Nationwide Painting Competition in 1979, the 10 outstanding Andaneans in 1987, and the 1995 Premio Speciale di G. B. Tiepolo at 10th Biennale International Figurative Art Festival Udine, Italy. Racuya finally settled in Las Piñas City, and has been an active member of the Tuesday Group of Artist and Las Piñas Artists Society.
In 1974, the church was declared as a diocesan parish, with the new Vicariate of Saint Joseph of the Archdiocese of Manila, with the parishes of the Holy Sacrifice (established 1949) in the University of the Philippines (established 1949), and the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Teachers Village (established 1969) under its jurisdiction. And in 1999, St. Joseph Parish was declared a pilgrimage site and was conferred the title of Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Joseph, and became a Vicariate of the Diocese of Cubao, when the diocese was established in 2003. Under the Diocese of Cubao, the Saint Joseph Vicariate expanded its territory to include the parishes of the Our Lady of the Pentecost (established 1999) in the Varsity Hills Subdivision, the Santa Maria della Strada (established 1981) along Katipunan Avenue, the Lord of Divine Mercy (established 1993) in the Sikatuna area, the Holy Family (established 1980) in Kamias, the Holy Cross (established 1997) in Baranagy Krus na Ligas, and the San Isidro Labrador Quasi-Parish in Baranagy Pinyahan. The St. Joseph Parish is also one of the few churches that offer sign language masses for the deaf.